Tag Archives: Ontario Ministry of Education social studies curriculum

Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

How Does Learning Happen?

Monica McGlynn-StewartOn April 25th, Ontario’s Ministry of Education released a new Early Learning Framework called How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/atkinson/UserFiles/File/Policy_Monitor/ON_25_04_14_-_HowLearningHappens.pdf
It is a learning resource for early years settings such as childcare, child and family support programs, and before-and-after school programs. In some ways, it is a departure from the previous early years curriculum framework, Early Learning for Every Child Today (2007). http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/early_learning_for_every_child_today.aspx
In addition to a statement of principles and guidelines for practice, the older document includes a section referred to as the continuum of development which has separate sections for infants, toddlers, pre-school/kindergarten and school-aged children. Each age group is further divided into five domains, social, emotional, communication, language and literacy, cognitive and physical. Each domain includes a list of specific skills, what educators might see that would indicate that skill, and suggestions for how educators might support those skills. In other words, it is quite detailed about how children develop and how educators can support them. The new document, How Learning Happens does not have this developmental section. It appears to be inspired by New Zealand’s national early childhood curriculum Te Whariki. Like Te Whariki, How Learning Happens focuses on children’s relationships, well-being and inquiry learning, and educator’s collaboration and critical reflection.
As a professor of early childhood education, I think a combination of the emphasis on reflection, relationships, and inquiry learning from Te Whariki and the continuum of development from Early Learning for Every Child today would be helpful, the latter particularly so for new early childhood educators. Over the last 25 years I have seen similar swings in the school curriculum in Ontario. When I first started teaching elementary grades in the late 1980’s, there was an incredibly open-ended primary curriculum which allowed excellent teachers to run fabulous programs, but left less informed and skilled teachers with little to go on (and some less than effective programs). We then had a conservative government in the mid to late 1990’s who introduced a much more prescriptive and reductionist curriculum, making it more difficult to be creative and to integrate the curriculum, but it could be argued that it supported new teachers. Now, with the school curriculum revisions in the last few years, and the new full-day kindergarten play-based curriculum document, we are moving back towards less prescriptive outcomes, subject integration and inquiry learning. I think new educators/teachers need support and explicit guidance, and more experienced, knowledgeable educators/teachers need more freedom to be creative and spontaneous. The question is, how you capture this in a one-size-fits all curriculum document?

Celebrating Easter in a Multicultural Society

Literacy development is evident in all areas of our school curriculum. I (Yiola) have been thinking about the Ontario Curriculum, particularly the new Social Studies curriculum and how much it has evolved over the years. The latest Ministry policy for teaching Social Studies has made significant gains in developing critical literacy and culturally relevant pedagogy.


This weekend while I was celebrating the Easter holiday with my family I wondered how this culturally significant event could be included in the curriculum without alienating those students who do not observe Easter.

The Grade 2 social studies curriculum has a strand: Changing Family and Community Traditions. When I taught Grade 2 the strand was called: Traditions and Celebrations. By the heading alone one can see the conceptual shift that has taken place in how we think about traditions. Then it dawned on me, must we compartmentalize units of study to blocks of time? Why not open the unit of study and have students throughout the year share the community traditions they observe? And of course, they needn’t be limited to formal holidays. They can be as significant as the family tradition of quilting or playing music.

Children making flaounesThen I began to think about how important this particular family tradition is for my children and how I would like for it to be affirmed in school; not for its religious value; but for the importance it holds in our family. What if Sylvia Clare wrote a procedural piece on making “flaounes” with her Papou (see image)? She could talk about, experience, and write about how to make traditional Cypriot flaounes. And, if this opportunity were open throughout the year for all children to share at any time a special community/family tradition in a way that was meaningful to them (through writing, speaking, doing) so much knowledge, information and appreciation could be shared. Just one small example of how literacy and social studies could work together.